The Walking Dead: Episode 1 review for XBLA, PSN, PC

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
Also On: PSN, PC
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

The Walking Dead is the first in a five episode series of titles from Telltale Games, the folks behind last year?s Back to the Future series, along with the revival of Sam and Max, and the Wallace and Gromit titles. Oh, and Jurassic Park, but we?ll just pretend that one didn?t happen.

And while The Walking Dead has surged in popularity thanks to the hit T.V. series that just recently wrapped up its second season, the video game is instead based on the workings of the comics that spawned the T.V. show. The game features a cast that?s mostly all new for the comics, but there?s definitely a couple cameos tossed in.

You?ll take on the role of a man currently in the confines of America?s prison system, who escapes after everything goes to hell. His story picks up right at the on-set of the zombie apocalypse, which is nice considering both the show and comics start from Rick Grimes perspective, which is months after the initial outbreak occurred. This gives fans a glimpse at how everything started, and the first episode contains a couple characters that?ll be instantly familiar to fans of both the show and comic, which helps to grab your initial interest in what?s going on.

The gameplay allows you to control your lead characters movement, while using the right analog stick to control a cursor. The cursor will highlight interactive objects, with a series of prompts that are tied into the controllers face buttons. Some objects are there just for background information, but in true adventure game fashion there?s stuff to pick up and combine with other things you?ll find in order to progress the story. I will say that this initial episode is pretty light on the puzzle side of things, there?s little to figure out or find, which I thought was a tad disappointing compared to some of the other titles Telltale has produced so far.

There are some action segments as well, which are basically handled like standard quick-time events. These involve mashing buttons to push away or drive off attacking zombies, and then hitting an additional button to finish the sequence. These sections are also pretty basic so far, and pretty hard to actually fail. Occasionally you?ll have a sequence that requires you to aim your cursor at an attacking zombie and press the action prompt, which gets to be just a tad harder since there?s usually limited time to pull this off.

There are only a handful of set-pieces in the first episode, but each location serves a purpose in introducing new characters to the cast quickly. You can interact with these characters through a number of dialogue choices, and you?ll get notifications when you tell or hear something important, and certain characters will track whether you?re lying or not, and then toss that information back in your face later on. The game also gives you a couple of life and death decisions for different characters, so there?s a couple ways the first chapter can play out. One nice touch is that the trailer for the next episode that plays at the end will also reflect the choices you?ve made here, and I thought that was a pretty cool idea.

Visually the game is striking, opting for an art style that?s pulled almost directly from the comics, but looks a lot closer to the series original artist Tony Moore than current artist Charlie Adlard. The style transitions to the game really well, featuring some really cool scenes that help the art style to pop out more than I would have thought possible, but doesn?t rely on the typical cel-shaded look that we normally see when video games try to copy comic book artwork.

The Walking Dead isn?t without some technical hiccups, which I feel like we?ve all come to expect from Telltale Games at this point. It?s a shame that this continues to be a thing, but there?s a fair amount of stuttering that occurs at various points, which certainly pulls you out of the world, and some tense situations. Hopefully this can be fixed by way of a patch in the future, and doesn?t continue to be an issue as the series pushes forward.

So while this first episode is a bit light on the adventure game tropes you might be familiar with, and certainly doesn?t require much head scratching in the puzzle department, I think it still serves as an entertaining introduction to what could possibly be Telltale?s best work yet. Of course I?m also a pretty big fan of both the comic and T.V. show, but I think it?s saying something that the game manages to really nail the feel of both, and I think it?s something that long-time fans of the comic will definitely enjoy. I?m certainly on board for future episodes, and hope the game continues to improve over the course of the next few months.

Grade: B